Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
Earlier this week, I stumbled across a blog post that makes the case that abortion can be a compassionate solution in the case of unborn children with disabilities. The author states that "having an abortion to prevent a child from being born with Down syndrome or another disability can be a positive moral choice," and goes on to say:
When you argue that children with Down syndrome are "special gifts" or that raising them is a "rewarding experience" for parents, you are appropriating their difficulties and fetishizing their difference. That is the opposite of respecting a disabled person. I get that who we are is shaped by experience and that many disabled people consider disability to be integral to their personalities -- just as I see poverty as a formative experience for me -- but I doubt they would have chosen to be disabled in the first place.
The piece veers into arguments involving the strain that disabled children cause their parents as well as the financial burden they place on society, but the overarching point is that abortion can be the best choice even for the child, and she bases that case on her guess that disabled people probably do not like being disabled. There's a lot that could be said about this, and Live Action nails the flaws in these arguments in a two-part post written by Nancy Flanders (who is the mother of a child with cystic fibrosis).
What I find most interesting about this essay is that it's an articulation of a commonly-held position within secular feminist circles, and yet it contradicts another tenet of their own worldview.
This was hit home to me when I clicked away from blog post above, only to come across this graphic just a few moments later:
(See this post for a correction of the misleading "77%" statistic.)
I can't remember where I found this image, but the text that accompanied it was almost identical to this post at the Abortion Gang blog, in which the author says:
The majority of persons in government who are anti-choice, are men. And none of them can get pregnant. The people who are making decisions that affect the lives of women, CAN'T EVEN GET PREGNANT!
And so, I want to silence the voices of all men. I am so tired of men giving their opinion about abortion. I am so tired of it that I am willing to sacrifice the voices of all the men who support women...Of course there are anti-choice women, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann being the two most prominent ones. I dislike them just as much as I dislike male anti-choicers, but something about a man, a person who could never fully appreciate the terror upon seeing a positive pregnancy test, a person who could walk away from a pregnancy if he so chose, a person who will never DIE in childbirth, something about him telling a woman that she should be forced to keep a pregnancy sends me into a rage.
It is that rage, that sense of complete and utter anger at a man telling me what I can and cannot do with my body that causes me to write that sentence, that causes me to want to silence all the male voices in the abortion discussion.
Naturally, I disagree with this premise. I think that standing up for people who don't have a voice (like, say, babies) is an issue that should cross all social lines, including gender. However, since the belief that men should not be able to speak out against abortion is so widely accepted within the pro-choice movement, let's take a look at the underlying premise behind this idea, and see what logical conclusions we can draw from it.
To use the points from the Abortion Gang post, men "can't even get pregnant." Given that they have never walked a mile in a woman's shoes, they could "never fully appreciate" the experience of pregnancy. Thus, the thinking goes, they should not push for women to make sacrifices that they themselves will never have to make.
If you accept these beliefs and the premises behind them to be true...then doesn't that also mean that you could never support able-bodied parents choosing to end the life of a disabled unborn child?
A person who has never been disabled has no idea what it is like to live with a disability. She understands neither the crosses nor the hidden blessing that may come with that kind of life. Even if someone has one disability, she still cannot imagine what it would be like to have a different struggle (for example, having spina bifida is an entirely different experience than having Down syndrome). What enrages some feminists about men opposing abortion is that men are suggesting that women make sacrifices; yet with "compassionate" abortion for disabilities, an able-bodied person is forcefully sacrificing a disabled person's entire life.
I would like to issue a call for pro-choice feminists to reject the intellectual dishonesty that currently plagues their worldview, and accept that the fact that they cannot simultaneously hold the views that 1) men cannot oppose abortion because they'll never know what it's like to be pregnant, and that 2) a person who has never known what it's like to be disabled can decide for a disabled person that he or she would be better off dead.
One of the two has to go.
Ideally, of course, I would like to see feminists reject the idea that men can't stand up for unborn life and the idea that it's okay to kill unborn disabled people. But since that kind of idealogical upheaval is probably still a long way off, it'd be a great step forward to begin with internal consistency.